A couple years ago I was the recipient of an unexpected phone call. I was completely unprepared for it, for a couple of reasons. One, I’d all but forgotten the person calling existed. Two, the Hubster was out of town, the kids were in bed, and I was in the middle of a first-draft stupor (which means most of my psyche was busy frolicking in ImaginaryLand). It was actually a small miracle that I answered the phone at all, because when I’m rolling in the deep like that (I dare you not to hear Adele in your head – ha!), I usually only stop when the dog is doing her If You Don’t Let Me Outside This Second I’m Gonna Drop A Twosie On The Rug dance, or if one of the kids is bleeding in a way that a Sponge Bob bandaid won’t suffice.
Point here is, between my early-onset dementia and fiddle-faddeling in fairy-land, this phone-call knocked the air out of me. Like, falling-off-the-playground-monkey-bars kind of losing your breath.
“Is this Myndi?”
“Myndi, it’s Leslie Aton.”
Confused silence on my part as I tried to connect with the name. Leslie Aton. Leslie Aton? Ohhhhh, Leslie Aton. I know this girl. We went to grade school together. Then junior high. Then high school. She was a year older than me and was largely responsible for making my life at school Miserable. That’s right, I said Miserable, with a capital M. You could toss a ‘Les’ in front of the Miserable for fun, but it might be a touch showy. I’m not sure my school experience could fill 800 pages of depressing prose.
My confused silence now stretched into stony silence. I have no idea why Leslie Aton is calling me, twelve or thirteen years after the last time we saw each other. She’d dropped out of my realm of existence when I’d transferred high schools late in my Junior year. I had nothing to say to her – I couldn’t imagine what she’d possibly have to say to me.
As it turned out, it was an apology. A heartfelt, tear-filled apology for things done a decade prior. Things that had followed her through the years, things she needed forgiveness for.
My stony silence stretched into stunned silence. It was such a wholly unexpected conversation that I’m afraid most of it was largely one-sided. She spoke, I listened. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her, or what must have been going through her mind. After all, Confused Silence, Stony Silence, and Stunned Silence all sound the same. Just silence. Or, if you’re listening through a filter (and let’s be honest – we all listen through a filter), she probably heard Angry Silence. Grudging Silence. Hateful Silence.
Eventually I managed to find words enough to tell her that, of course, I’d forgive her. That we were just kids back then, and kids do stupid stuff. God knows I’ve done my fair share of stupid – I could give you a hefty list of people who’d be willing to vouch for it. But I wish I’d have had the presence of mind to say more – to tell her that if we bumped into each other on the street, we’d be cool. That I respected her for doing the unthinkably hard – being humble enough to approach someone she’d wronged, open herself up to a possible tongue lashing, just to say she was sorry for being stupid when she was a kid. We all know how it is when we contemplate doing a thing like that – we play through every scenario we can think of, each uglier than the last. It must have been really difficult to pick up the phone, my number in hand, and dial. I wish I could have told her that her kids (if she has any) are so blessed to have a mom that sets an example of humility and bold honesty – even when it means putting herself in a potentially painful/embarrassing situation. Especially when there were probably a thousand reasons in favor of not making that phone call. A thousand good, solid reasons.
Leslie, I want you to know that I really, really respect you for that.
What about you? How do you feel about apologies that come late? Are you prone to forgive, or do you tend to hold a grudge? Have you been on the receiving end of an unexpected apology and not known what to say? Or have you ever had to dig up courage enough to say that you were wrong, and sorry?
(p.s. Leslie Aton isn’t actually the name of the girl. I doubt she reads my blog, but since she and I aren’t in contact, I didn’t want to risk hurting her feelings by revealing her name without her permission.)